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The best soundbars in 2021: The best TV speakers from Sonos, Vizio, Bose and more

Best soundbars
(Image credit: Yamaha)

The best soundbars are powerful yet simple-to-install replacements for your TV’s weak built-in speakers. The problem, you see, is that as televisions have become thinner, many — even some of the best TVs — have been forced to downsize their speakers, making them sound tinny and quiet.

A soundbar solves this by handing off audio duties to a purpose-built speaker with multiple drivers, creating a soundstage that’s not just deeper and more detailed, but wider and more immersive too. You can get soundbars with dedicated subwoofers, and even satellite speakers for true surround sound, but if you just want a simple home theater then standalone soundbars make great alternatives. They’re certainly a lot easier to set up than the best AV receivers.

We’re also keeping this list up to date, and will keep an eye out for potential future inclusions — provided they perform well enough in our testing, of course. We’ve judged the best soundbars on a purely hands-on basis, so you can be sure you’re not getting a sonic dud.

What are the best soundbars?

Our pick for the best soundbar for the money is the Yamaha YAS-209, a great-value soundbar and subwoofer combo. The YAS-209 sounds much better than the price tag might suggest, and it comes complete with Alexa integration for greater smarts.

We're also big fans of the Sonos Arc as a more premium, Dolby Atmos-friendly option, though it appears to be going through a stock shortage at the moment. For a true budget model, meanwhile, you should check out the Creative Stage V2. This cheap soundbar and subwoofer combo delivers forceful but controlled audio, and doesn't take up too much room.

Here are all of the best soundbars you can buy right now. 

The best soundbars you can buy today

Best soundbars: Yamaha YAS-209Top Pick

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha YAS-209

The best soundbar and subwoofer combo

Specifications
Size: 36.6 x 4.3 x 2.5-inches
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI in/out, digital optical in
Audio Channels: Stereo, DTS Virtual X Surround
Bluetooth: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Clear and resonant dialog+Excellent for music+Alexa inside
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks low-frequency effects when movies are playing-Only 1 HDMI input

The Yamaha YAS-209 is an excellent package for the price, getting you great overall sound, a wireless subwoofer for beefy bass and Alexa support for handy voice controls. The soundbar itself is one of the sleeker models we've tested, with a 36-inch design that should look great under most TVs. 

The soundbar's four 1.75-inch drivers deliver immersive sound for movies and shows. What's more, the built in Alexa functionality makes it easy to control any smart device in your home — even when the soundbar is off. We wish there was more than just one HDMI port on the back, but even despite that nitpick, the YAS-209 offers a lot to like.

Read our full Yamaha YAS-209 review.

Best soundbars: Sonos Arc

(Image credit: Sonos)

2. Sonos Arc

The best premium soundbar

Specifications
Size: 45 x 4.5 x 3.4 inches
Inputs/Outputs: Ethernet, HDMI ARC
Audio Channels: N/A
Bluetooth: No (Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2 capable)
Subwoofer: No
Wattage: N/A
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Clear vocals and focused sound+Strong, Sonos-quality bass+Alexa and Google Assistant built-in
Reasons to avoid
-Very large

The Sonos Arc is the best soundbar you can buy if you’re willing to splurge. This $799 premium speaker stands out with its gorgeous curved design, which is designed to be a centerpiece of your living room as much as it’s meant to enhance your TV’s sound. And it certainly doesn’t skimp on sound performance, delivering deep bass and clear treble for your favorite movies and TV shows complete with Dolby Atmos support. 

Thanks to Sonos’ TruePlay technology, the Arc can automatically tune itself to whatever room it’s in to deliver the crispest, most accurate audio possible. It also supports voice controls via Alexa and Google Assistant, making it one of the smartest soundbars you can buy. If you have a larger entertainment area — and a large budget, the Sonos Arc is the top premium soundbar out there. 

Read our full Sonos Arc review.

Best soundbars: Creative Stage V2

(Image credit: Future)

3. Creative Stage V2

The best cheap soundbar and subwoofer combo

Specifications
Size: 26.8 x 3 x 3.9 inches, 4.4 pounds
Inputs/Outputs: Optical, 3.5mm, HDMI ARC, USB
Audio Channels: 2.1
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: Yes
Wattage: 160W
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very cheap+Varied ports+Adjustable sound
Reasons to avoid
-Short subwoofer cable-Plastic attracts dust

Cheap and compact but deceptively rich-sounding, the Creative Stage V2 is another fantastic choice for those on tight budgets. The dedicated subwoofer treats lower frequencies much better than the majority of cut-price standalone soundbars, and the clearness of dialog impressed in our testing.

There's also a "Surround" mode that widens the soundstage beyond the Stage V2's modest dimensions, and you can tweak the sound even further with bass and treble boost settings. Connectivity is very good for the money, too — in addition to the expected optical and 3.5mm inputs, there's HDMI ARC, USB and Bluetooth to play with too.

Read our full Creative Stage V2 review.

Best soundbars: Polk MagniFi Mini

(Image credit: Polk Audio)

4. Polk MagniFi Mini

The best soundbar for smaller spaces

Specifications
Size: 13.4 x 4.3 x 3.1 inches
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI, Digital Optical, Ethernet, USB
Audio Channels: 5.1, stereo
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: Yes
Wattage: N/A
Wall Mountable: No
Reasons to buy
+Powerful bass and clear vocals+Wireless subwoofer+Google Cast audio integration
Reasons to avoid
-No onscreen display or mobile app-Harsh treble

No soundbar packs huge audio into a tiny package quite like the Polk MagniFi Mini does. This unassuming speaker will fit seamlessly into any setup, and delivers crisp dialogue and deep bass with the help of its included wireless subwoofer. Plus, with Google Cast support, the MagniFi Mini doubles as a great home music speaker.

The MagniFi Mini gets loud enough to fill most bedrooms and small apartments, and we found it reliable for getting immersed in movies and shows. Factor in a handy remote and and an easy setup process, and you've got the best soundbar out there for folks short on space. And at $300, it won't set you back much, either.

Read our full Polk MagniFi Mini review.

Best soundbars: JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

(Image credit: Future)

5. JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

The best soundbar for affordable Atmos

Specifications
Size: 27.9 x 2.3 x 3.9 inches
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI ARC, Digital Optical, Ethernet, USB
Audio Channels: 5.0
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: No
Wattage: 250W
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good Dolby Atmos performance+Auto calibration+Doesn't need a subwoofer
Reasons to avoid
-Limited sound controls-No mobile app

Yet more proof that you don't need to spend big to get quality Dolby Atmos integration, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam defies its standalone form factor with a respectable attempt at digital surround sound — not to mention powerful bass, even without a subwoofer.

Although we'd have liked a few more ways to manually adjust the sound output, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam also features a handy auto calibration feature that tunes Atmos playback for the dimensions of your living room specifically. This helps contribute to a strong sense of audio positioning, again something you can't always be sure about with single soundbars. Still, it works, and is just another reason the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is one of the best soundbars.

Read our full JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review.

Best soundbars: Sonos Beam

(Image credit: Sonos)

6. Sonos Beam

Big sound and smart home controls

Specifications
Size: 25.6 x 3.9 x 2.7 inches, 6.2 pounds
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI ARC, optical audio, Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2
Audio Channels: Stereo
Bluetooth: No
Reasons to buy
+Easy set up+Alexa inside+Wide soundstage
Reasons to avoid
-Bass lacks detail-No Bluetooth audio

The Sonos Beam is a small, affordable and great-sounding soundbar that also doubles as a neat smart home gadget. This speaker has full Alexa integration, allowing you to, say, control your Fire TV with just your voice, or ask about the weather or control your smart lights while binging Netflix from the couch. 

It also delivers big on the audio front for its price, with a wide soundstage and crisp dialogue that will make your favorite movies and shows sing. We'd really like the Beam to embrace Bluetooth (you'll need the Sonos Move for that), but it's still an excellent choice if you want an Alexa-ready soundbar with great performance.

Read our full Sonos Beam review.

Best soundbars: Roku Streambar

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

7. Roku Streambar

The best soundbar for cord-cutters

Specifications
Size: 14 x 4.2 x 2.4 inches
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI, USB, optical audio
Audio Channels: Stereo
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: No
Wattage: N/A
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+4K streaming+Clear, loud sound+Compact design
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively weak bass-No Ethernet port

The Roku Streambar is Roku's second soundbar outing, and just might be the company's best yet. This unique all-in-one device is both a compact soundbar and a 4K Roku streaming player at once, allowing you to enjoy great sound for shows and movies while tapping into your favorite streaming services all from the same hardware.

Don't let its size fool you, though — the Streambar delivers impressive sound for its size and price. Packing four 1.9-inch drivers, this small soundbar can easily fill a living room with crisp audio for your next Netflix or Disney Plus binge. And since you're getting Roku software inside, you'll be able to watch just about every streaming service out there, with an intuitive interface and an included remote for navigation. Better yet, you can pair the Streambar to the Roku TV Wireless Speakers and Roku Wireless Subwoofer if you want even more immersive sound.

Read our full Roku Streambar review.

Best soundbars: Vizio M-Series M512a-H6

(Image credit: Future)

8. Vizio M-Series M512a-H6

The best soundbar, subwoofer and satellite system on a budget

Specifications
Size: 34.6 x 3 x 5 inches (soundbar), 11.7 x 9.9 x 8.3 inches (subwoofer), 5.8 x 3.5 x 2.3 inches (satellite)
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI, HDMI ARC, optical in, 3.5mm in, Aux VA in
Audio Channels: 5.1.2
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: Yes
Wattage: Not stated
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+True surround sound+Full Dolby Atmos support+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Bass can overpower-No auto calibration or app

Bargains don't come much bigger than the Vizio M-Series M512a-H6. For well under $500 it delivers true surround sound through satellite speakers and a Dolby Atmos through the soundbar's upfiring drivers. This is the genuine article: no digital spoofing of the Atmos effect, just truly immersive sound.

Only a few luxuries like Wi-Fi and auto calibration are missing, and Vizio is particularly generous with the range of options for customizing the overall sound output, so you can get the M512a-H6 sounding just how you like it. If you're using an even cheaper soundbar like the Vizio V-Series V21-H8, this is a great upgrade.

Read our full Vizio M-Series M512a-H6 review.

Best soundbars: Bose Soundbar 500

(Image credit: Bose)

9. Bose Soundbar 500

A great soundbar with Alexa and Google Assistant

Specifications
Size: 31.5 x 4 x 1.8 inches, 7 pounds
Inputs/Outputs: HDMI ARC, eARC, CEC, Optical, USB
Audio Channels: Stereo
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: No
Wattage: Not stated
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Slim and sleek+Clear dialogue+Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa inside
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Lacks HDMI inputs

The Bose Soundbar 500 has unfortunately been discontinued, but for the time being it's still on sale at reputable retailers, so remains worth considering. This soundbar is an incredibly well-rounded package, offering rich sound, foolproof ease-of-use and support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for voice controls. The Soundbar 500's slim design fits seamlessly into most home entertainment setups, and supports HDMI ARC, which allows you to use the soundbar to control any device hooked up to your TV. 

For a slim soundbar without a subwoofer, the Soundbar 500 delivers impressively crisp dialogue for movies and TV shows, and offers solid bass when you're thumping music via Bluetooth or AirPlay 2. Factor in reliable voice assistant controls and a painless setup process, and you've got the best soundbar in this price range.

Read our full Bose Soundbar 500 review.

Roku Streambar Pro

(Image credit: Roku)

10. Roku Streambar Pro

A soundbar/streamer combo with virtual surround sound

Specifications
Size: 32.2 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches, 5.5 pounds
Inputs/Outputs: Optical, USB, HDMI ARC
Audio Channels: 2.0
Bluetooth: Yes
Subwoofer: No
Wattage: Not stated
Wall Mountable: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Easy to set up and use+Wide sound+Built-in Roku 4K streamer
Reasons to avoid
-No Dolby Atmos-Low streaming app performance

As a higher-spec alternative to the Roku Streambar, the Streambar Pro offers virtual surround sound delivered through a wider (but still subtle) design. It also comes with an improved remote, with which you can pick and choose video content to play through the built-in 4K streamer.

As with all Roku devices this serves up loads of content, though performance is sluggish. Still, once the content is actually playing, you can enjoy good sound quality with a nicely widened soundstage. The Streambar Pro is also one of the easiest soundbars to set up and use, so is ideal for home theater newcomers.

Read our full Roku Streambar Pro review.

How to choose the best soundbar for you

There are a number of factors that play into deciding which soundbar you should buy. Size will likely be the most immediately prohibitive for most customers; you obviously need a soundbar that will suit your TV and space constraints within your entertainment console. And, because a soundbar is one of the centerpieces of your home theater setup, it has to look good and fit stylistically.

Then you have to factor in the size of the room you're dealing with, and the distance viewers would typically be sitting from the TV. If you're dealing with a larger space, it's probably best to target soundbars that come with a subwoofer — you'll surely appreciate the extra bass.

Ports and connectivity is crucial too, both in terms of wired and wireless access. Not every soundbar comes with an HDMI port; some force you to make do with optical audio. That's perfectly fine if you want to use your TV as a pass-through, but those who are in dire need of more HDMI ports — because their capacity is limited between game consoles, streaming boxes and so on — will need to prioritize options that offer those additional connections.

Finally, more and more of the best soundbars are embracing Dolby Atmos, which is a surround sound technology designed to simulate the immersive 3D audio you'd get from a movie theater. The big difference between Atmos and traditional surround sound is that you'll hear sound move up and down and not just side-to-side, allowing you to get extra immersed when, say, a car flies overhead in an action movie. There are already lots of soundbars that support Atmos, including the LG SJ9, Sony HT-ST5000, and Yamaha YSP-5600. For more on the technology, check out our complete guide to Dolby Atmos.

How we test the best soundbars

When testing for inclusion in our best soundbars page, we play a range of media — including movies, music and games — in order to evaluate overall sound quality. We also test any companion software that may come with a soundbar, and factor in how easy it is to set up and use each device.

Other features we consider include a soundbar's inputs, outputs and ability to be wall mounted, all of which determine how well it will work with your home entertainment setup. We also take into account each soundbar's wattage, its supported audio channels and whether it includes a subwoofer — all factors that greatly affect how each speaker will sound in your living room.

  • anchoragedj
    Gotta tell ya, it's spendy but incredible sound. Both 'musically' and for theater/surround reflection. The B&W Panorama2 improved on the original significantly. HDMI inputs, including a forth 'bi-directional' HDMI connector so your tv can be rerouted through the soundbar itself. Sub out and you're set in a medium, even large living room. While the Bose is an excellent bar, the Pano is a MONSTER in comparison..IMHO, and as always your mileage may vary;)
    J
    Reply
  • Colin Lee
    I can see I need to do more research...
    Reply
  • Heshacherrr
    I am very curious why there are no review of any of the new Bose soundbars (the Cinemate 15, 120 or 130). I was considering buying one of them but found absolutely no reviews of them.
    Reply
  • Martinaia
    Sony is best. Beats overrated bose easy!
    Reply
  • zerk11
    Creative SoundBlaster ROAR for $149 is the best out there.
    Reply
  • watchingcrow
    Hey Tom's,
    I just bought a Toshiba 40" 1080 with a DTS (digital output) and am trying to upgrade somewhat but someone once told me it is a lot easier to spend to little money than too much. Anyway, 2.1 is attractive for a bunch of reasons but I read that that was not surround sound and with only two speakers was really for listening to music. So I started looking at the 5.1 don't really need the woofer if there is one built in but what I am most interested in the having the "center speakers" as my wife and i have trouble with speech/dialog etc and have read that that goes through the center speakers and you can increase the volume there and have better speach recognition. So, anyway, i see that you are only recommending the 2.1 systems here and so it looks like you don't agree with the need for 5.1
    Reply
  • rexter
    There no mention of Niro or even Nakamichi
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    best "sound bar" is a pair of stereo speakers.........seriously just a small bookshelf speaker on each side of your tv if you don't have room for something large. I'm sorry one of those people still finding it hard to believe how anything in "bar" form takes off so easily, even if its crap. I find it hard to believe the Bose is a top pick considering most audio sites gave it an average rating and poor value for money. Did you actually review the Bose system? or just pop it in the article because of the name or amazon reviews?
    Reply
  • Runamok81
    Can't believe no one reviews the Phillips Fidelio HTL 7180. Wireless sub AND wireless surrounds. $350.
    Reply
  • yorich
    Goldenear Super Cinema 3d array...best 999.99 I've ever spent. Sounds better than any of this crap here, looks fantastic, couldn't be happier. This list is a joke
    Reply